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BJUG last night: breaking it down

OK, here’s a grabbag of links and info regarding my talk last night (links and powerpoint available here). I was interested to know how many folks had actually worked on an internationalized application. (I18n is one of those APIs that you ignore until you need it, and then you absolutely have to have it.) Here are some rough numbers, based on a quick survey of hands. Out of a crowd of 25, about 5 people had used i18n. Of those, 3 had used it with web applications, and one with a J2SE application (I think the last person had used i18n with C). 3 of them had supported European languages and three had supported Asian languages.

I was emphasizing how important it was to pull out all the strings to be displayed to properties files, so they could be localized. A few folks in the audience mentioned that eclipse has support for this–out of the box for java classes, and with a plugin for jsps. (If you are reading this and know the name of the plugin, please comment; I did some googling and couldn’t find any jsp plugins that claimed an ‘Extract Strings’ capability.)

One person asked if we encountered issues with translating plurals, like house/houses. I hadn’t seen that problem with the application I worked upon, but was pretty sure that the java class libraries supported a solution. That solution is ChoiceFormat.

When I mentioned that we used Excel spreadsheets as our transfer format for slinging around translated strings, one of the other folks, who spent five years supporting a java application that was internationalized (he had some war stories), mentioned the XLIFF, an XML variant that is used in several translation editors. If you’re planning to do a lot of translation, you might want to take a look.

The talk after mine was an interesting discussion of SOA by Glen Coward. It was a rather discombobulating mix of an extremely high level look at the SOA landscape, complete with TLAs galore, and an extremely low level example of a rich client in Flex talking to two web services, one built with Axis on JBoss, and the other built with MS.NET deployed on Mono. The demo went poorly, as demos tend to do, but it was enough to whet my appetite to look a bit more closely at SOA.

In addition, as you’d expect from an employee of Novell, he was interested in delineating the differences between open source software and commercial software in a corporate environment, and where each made sense. His point was that in quickly changing areas, corporate software made sense, because of productivity gains that commercial IDE support makes available. In addition, deep integration (read, anything to do with backend legacy systems) is probably going to require commercial software. He didn’t specify why, but I’d guess that specialized backend integration is primarily going to continue to be commercial software for a number of reasons: it’s not sexy, it requires the backend system to test (not often available for the average hacker), and there are intellectual property issues. What Glen didn’t make explicit, but I will, is where that leaves open source–smack dab in the middle, gluing together all the applications. You know, like Apache and JBoss and Tomcat (among many others) already do.

As usual, I learned something at BJUG. And you can’t beat free pizza.